Social Search and the Implication on Brands

A cartoon computer with a magnifying glass over popular website logos

A cartoon computer with a magnifying glass over popular website logos

With the rise of the Relationship Era, Google is starting to reflect consumer-brand engagement in its search results. Search results are no longer dependent solely on traditional SEO methods such as meta tags and link building, but are now influenced by conversations around a brand among consumers within their social networks. Search is becoming more personalized, blurring the lines between content from the Web and content from social networks.

Google’s “Search, plus Your World” gives users the choice to experience a more personalized search. By clicking on the “Show personal results” button, users are able to see content shared and talked among a user’s Google+ circles. Additionally, when searching for a person, search fields suggest Google+ pages of people in a user’s Google+ circles or those they may be interested in following. And finally, the new “People and Pages” box on the right shows suggestions of Google+ pages of people related to the query.

In response to “Search, plus Your World,” engineers from Facebook, Twitter and Myspace recently rolled out with the “Focus on the User” tool to encompass results from social sites other than Google+. Rather than showing only Google+ pages in the “People and Pages” box, the tool enables users to see people and pages from the social web, including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, which may contain more engagement and activity among users compared to Google+ pages.

For brands, social search means that it’s now more important than ever not only to be active on social networks, but to also encourage others to talk about and share content around the brands. Serving as a sort of peer recommendation, social search will also render results as more trustworthy (although not necessarily always the most relevant).

As Google’s personalized search currently includes results only from within Google+, it’s essential that brands start utilizing Google+ to increase their presence online. As brands will want to be added to others’ Google+ circles, social search reinforces the importance of content quality, where content cannot merely catch readers’ interest, but rather fosters conversation among its consumers. Brands should seek influencers with a wide audience reach who will talk about and share brand-related content.

Despite Google’s belief that “behind almost every query is a community,” the current social search fails to capture the whole social aspect in its results. Results only show results from Google+, when more people are active on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Although Twitter and Facebook have not agreed to share their content with Google, social search would be more complete if it embraced content from other social platforms, creating a more accurate snapshot of the Relationship Era. Perhaps this broader reach is right around the corner…

Ji-Sook Yim is an Integrated Marketing Associate at Otherwise Incorporated.

Illustration credit: Josh Epstein, Designer at Otherwise Incorporated.